Heart of a Killer
I once picked up a Lora Leigh romantic suspense novel. Sure, I had heard they were Bad with a capital B. And it was. But I have to say that this novel by Jaci Burton makes that Lora Leigh one look like a shining example of literary genius. The premise was wacky, the characters unbelievably dumb, and the plot weak. My mind was never able to overcome the sheer ridiculousness.
This woeful tale of stupidity run amuck opens with a group of teenage boys, all from the same foster home, visiting the ice cream shop where Anna Pallino, the girlfriend of one of the boys, Dante Renaldi, works. Anna is getting ready to close the shop and leaves to take the garbage out back. Once outside she is attacked by a man who attempts to rape her and carves a heart into her chest. The boys get suspicious when Anna is gone too long and rush out back to see what is going on. They interrupt the attack and divert the attacker’s attention away from Anna. The boys then proceed to beat the attacker, quite literally, to death.
Naturally they fear for the consequences should what they have done be discovered. Anna has a plan though. She will get her police officer father to cover up the crime so that the truth will never come out. Her father sends her boyfriend Dante away and sweeps the rest of the evidence of what occurred under the rug. Dante joins Black Ops, Anna becomes a detective with the police department, and all goes well until Dante returns to town for his foster parents’ thirtieth anniversary celebration.
Dante is back in town less than 24 hours when his foster father George is discovered bludgeoned to death in the same alley where the attack on Anna occurred twelve years earlier. A heart has been carved into George’s chest. Anna arrives on the scene to investigate and finds her old boyfriend Dante who has tracked George’s location through the GPS in his cell phone. George’s murder makes little sense, but the similarities to the incident from twelve years before are undeniable. As the body count increases, Dante and Anna find themselves growing closer even as a killer walks among them.
Let’s begin on a positive note since the remainder of the review is not going to go well. The book is quite readable. It’s written in a style that is neither terribly dense nor overly simplistic. I’ve read several of the author’s erotic contemporaries and enjoyed them. After reading this romantic suspense I think it’s possible that erotic romance is more of her forte.
With that being said, I disliked the characters and the plot. Both were over-the-top ridiculous. And I don’t mean that in the campy, fun way, but rather the “I am developing a migraine from this shiznit” way.
Anna is perhaps one of the worst cops to ever populate the romance fiction world. She does not analyze well and needs Dante to point facts out to her. She gets hysterical. She compromises evidence. She is basically useless as an investigator. Upon encountering Dante when George is murdered she is quick to accuse him of the murder. This is our first glimpse of Anna the cop and she comes across as an illogical shrew.
Dante and Anna have plenty of issues to work through, but Anna has a huge chip on her shoulder. She is angry and resentful of his leaving after her attack. This causes her to be belligerent towards him a good portion of the book. They push each other around. She orders him to leave town. He informs her that he is moving in with her. It’s like the two of them are completely incapable of having a rational discussion. At one point she is so angry that she physically attacks him, they get into a scuffle, and she pulls a gun on him. Anyone with an ounce of sense of firearm safety would know not to do that, especially a trained police officer. At that point, any sympathy I may have felt for Anna dissipated and I wouldn’t have blamed Dante if he had walked away, never to return. In fact my mind was screaming, “Run, Dante! Run like the wind! This lady is crazy and this can not end well for you!”
Alas, Dante did not heed my telekinetic warnings. He takes Anna’s fits and accusations in stride, never losing his cool. He would have been an okay hero if I could have gotten past the fact that he beat a guy to death in the prologue. And though by the end of the novel he is redeemed somewhat, I still was unable to connect with his character or see him as hero material.
Ultimately, I was never able to set aside my feelings of disbelief while reading this. There were just too many plot points that were too far-fetched to be believed, such as police officers destroying evidence and Dante’s fabrication of FBI credentials. I’m willing to forgive a lot of ludicrous behaviors and situations if the story and characters are interesting enough. Unfortunately, for me there was not enough here to make me believe the unbelievable.